The Police Compromise
After Syafruddin’s departure, several candidates for National Police deputy chief emerged. The Presidential Palace eliminated a candidate recommended by the Police chief.
After he arrived at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base from a work trip in Bengkulu two weeks ago, Insp. Gen. Arief Sulistyanto went straight to National Police Chief Tito Karnavian’s official residence in Jalan Pattimura, South Jakarta. Tito had invited Arief for a private talk that night, at around 8:30pm.
When they met, Tito informed Arief that he would be replacing Chief of Criminal Investigation Division (Bareskrim) Comsr. Gen. Ari Dono Sukmanto, who would occupy the National Police deputy chief seat. "Pak Ari Dono first, and we met the National Police chief separately," said Arief after he was inaugurated at the National Police Headquarters Friday two weeks ago.
The leadership changes in the National Police took place after Police Deputy Chief Syafruddin was appointed as minister of administrative and bureaucratic reform to replace Asman Abnur. The National Mandate Party (PAN) politican resigned from the cabinet when his party did not join the coalition in support of Joko Widodo in the 2019 presidential election.
According to House of Representatives (DPR) Legal Affairs Commission member Sarifuddin Sudding, as soon as the National Police deputy chief seat was vacant, National Counterterrorism Agency Chief Comsr. Gen. Suhardi Alius was immediately mentioned as a potential replacement for Syafruddin. "Suhardi’s name was once strong within the Palace circle," said Sudding. But Suhardi was eliminated from the short list received by President Jokowi.
Tito Karnavian sent the President three names: Ari Dono Sukmanto, Arief Sulistyanto and Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Idham Azis. These names circulated within the DPR Legal Affairs Commission, the National Police’s partner, as Syafruddin’s potential successors. "They were forwarded to the Palace," said Sudding.
Idham’s inclusion on the list of National Police deputy chief candidates was first publicly announced by DPR Speaker Bambang Soesatyo. During Syafruddin’s inauguration as administrative and bureaucratic reform minister at the Palace, Wednesday two weeks ago, Bambang even called Idham using the National Police deputy chief title. "Hey, Mr. Waka (deputy chief), why are you just walking by? [You] have to get used to reporters," Bambang teased Idham in the presence of journalists covering the event.
According to Sudding, Idham became a candidate for Police deputy chief because he had often worked with Tito Karnavian, among others on the counterterrorism operation in Poso, Central Sulawesi. Indeed, both belonged to the same clique in the National Police counterterrorism squad Densus 88. Although Idham is one year older, he was Tito’s junior at the police academy. Tito was graduated in 1987, and Idham one year later.
But the Palace eliminated Idham from the list that same Wednesday. That day, although no official statement had been made to announce that Idham would be replacing Syafruddin, a video of Mobile Brigade Commander Insp. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadianother Densus 88 personwent into circulation.
In the 46-second video, Rudy claimed to have been appointed to lead the Jakarta Police, although the National Police HQ had not yet released a classified telegram announcing mutations in the police force. The video was uploaded to the Instagram handle @polisi_kita but was deleted not long after.
After Idham was eliminated, only Arief Sulistyanto and Ari Dono Sukmanto were left as Police deputy chief candidates. Gen. Tito Karnavian, who was asked for a recommendation by the Palace, suggested Ari Dono. "It’s true that I delivered several names. After I gave my input, he (Jokowi) decided on Pak Ari Dono as National Police deputy chief," said Tito, who explained that the decision making process took two days.
Ari Dono was chosen because of his achievements in various tasks, from the time he was chief of the Central Sulawesi Police to when he led the National Police Criminal Investigation Division, said Tito, who is certain he and Ari Dono will make compatible work partners.
An official familiar with the selection process said Ari Dono’s name was offered as a compromise. He graduated from the police academy in 1985, in the same graduating class as Syafruddin. According to a high ranking police officer, Ari Dono is someone who is accepted by all camps within the National Police. Ari Dono, Tito’s senior, is thought to be able to restrain officers who are also Tito’s seniors.
One day after Idham Azis was eliminated, it became certain that Ari Dono would be occupying the Police deputy chief seat. During recess at a state address and financial notes at the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), President Jokowi summoned Ari Dono to the Palace. Ari Dono’s name remained firm as a candidate since then.
Another source says the Palace intially preferred Arief Sulistyanto, Tito’s peer at the police academy. Arief was believed to be accomplished because of his breakthroughs as human resource assistant to the National Police chief, among others in recruiting new members of the police force.
Because of his achievements, Jokowi had long kept Arief’s name in his pocket. The two were first introduced in 2016, at the Peti Kemas Kijing Port in Pontianak, West Kalimantan. At the time, Arief was chief of the West Kalimantan Police. It was Teten Masduki, then-chief of presidential staff, who introduced him to the President.
Teten himself had known Arief Sulistyanto for a long time. "Pak Arief is a straight edge police officer," said Teten. When he accompanied Jokowi to the Kijing Port, Teten, who had not seen Arief in a while, immediately pulled the latter’s hand and introduced him to the President. "Pak, meet Pak Arief, an old friend, an honest police," said Teten when he recounted the day’s events last Thursday.
Even so, Teten denies news that he was the person who promoted Arief’s name for the National Police deputy chief seat. Arief says his meeting with Jokowi at the Kijing Port was part of the welcoming event during the President’s visit to the region. "I’ve not met the President since," said Arief.
Once it became certain that Ari Dono was to be National Police deputy chief, Arief was then projected to lead the National Police Criminal Investigation Division (Bareksrim). Jokowi once asked Tito Karnavian about Arief’s capacity for the post because to the President’s knowledge Arief has always been involved in human resources affairs at the National Police. Tito explained that prior to leading the West Kalimantan Police, Arief was Bareksrim’s special economic director. In the division, Arief was Ari Dono’s superior for a while, when the latter headed one of the subdivisions.
According to Tito, he recommended Arief because his roommate at the police academy has brought about changes within the National Police. "I hope that Pak Arief will be able to create breakthroughs from conventional cases, transnational crimes, and to support counterterrorism efforts by Densus, while helping the government maintain economic stability," said Tito.
Raymundus Rikang, Andita Rahma, Maya Ayu, Lani Diana, Ahmad Faiz, Hussein Abri.